10 Cool Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Tampa Bay

| © Derek Abella
Nick Gale

With such a varied and storied past, Tampa Bay is full of surprises: from legendary pirates and haunted ballrooms to some of the best Cuban sandwiches you’ll ever taste. It’s a city home to more than 130 nationalities, so visitors will be welcomed by a unique array of food, history and cultural experiences. Here are some of our favorite Tampa Bay facts.

Tampa is known as the cigar capital of the world

Cigar aficionados will feel right at home in the city of Tampa. The climate and close proximity to Cuba made it an ideal hub for cigar manufacturing in the 1900s. Today, there are few cigar factories left in the city. However, the museum and factory tours at JC Newman reveal how cigars became so intertwined with the culture of the Ybor City neighborhood.

Take a factory tour to discover how cigar production became so engrained in Tampa Bay culture

Ybor City is one of the most haunted places in the world

Just northeast of Downtown Tampa lies the historic neighborhood of Ybor City. ‘Tampa’s playground’ isn’t just an eclectic mix of retail stores and diverse restaurants, but is also home to one of the most haunted buildings in the world. The Cuban Club, a Ybor City institution, was built in 1917 and has become a hotbed for ghost sightings and supernatural experiences. There are up to 300 spirits said to call the building home – it’s no surprise visitors keep being scared out the door.

The annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival has been running for more than 120 years

People from around the world travel to Tampa Bay to celebrate the mythical pirate José Gaspar. There’s no evidence he ever actually existed, but that doesn’t stop locals and visitors alike recreating the Gasparilla Invasion annually. A 4mi (6km) long parade of pirates is attended by as many as 300,000 enthusiasts and there’s live music, food and entertainment long into the evening.

The chickens in Ybor City are protected by law

Visitors to Tampa often notice the number of wild chickens strutting around various neighborhoods like they own the place. But these birds have a better claim to the land than you may think. The wild chickens are direct descendants of the poultry that lived here more than 100 years ago. Their historical significance has meant these clucking hens have legal protection that effectively makes the entire city a bird sanctuary.

The wild chickens of Ybor City enjoy the legal protection of a decades-old Tampa ordinance

Many famous movies have been filmed in Tampa

Film buffs will be pleased to hear that some of their favorite movies were filmed in Tampa. From Goodfellas (1990) to Edward Scissorhands (1990), a trip through the historic streets of Tampa is a journey through Hollywood. If you really want to feel the magic of Tampa Bay, visit Bricks restaurant in Ybor City where a scene in Magic Mike (2012) was filmed.

Cuban sandwiches were invented in Tampa

Miami may have popularised the Cuban sandwich, but it originated in Tampa. It’s said to have been created at La Joven Francesca Bakery, but you can find this home favorite in many spots around town, including the well-known Columbia Restaurant. The Cuban sandwich is a representation of the Spanish, Cuban, Italian and even German immigrants who created the Ybor City we know today.

Head to the oldest eatery in Florida, Columbia Restaurant, to sink your teeth into a classic Cuban sandwich

Tampa was the first city to host and win the Super Bowl

One thing locals won’t forget anytime soon is Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ historic victory at Super Bowl LV. They beat the Kansas City Chiefs to become the first team to win the title game at their home ground. It’s the second time the Buccaneers have won a Super Bowl, the first was in 2003 against the Oakland Raiders.

Tampa is home to the longest continuous sidewalk in the US

One of Tampa’s best-known claims to fame is Bayshore Boulevard. The 4.5mi (7km) long sidewalk starts in Downtown Tampa and takes you, uninterrupted, along the Hyde Park neighborhood. You’ll get to see the Gasparilla Pirate Ship along the way and some of the most extravagant homes in the city.

Bayshore Boulevard, the second-longest sidewalk in America, passes some of the most luxurious residences in Tampa

Tampa was a top seller of illegal liquor during the Prohibition era

Soon after the 1919 Prohibition Act, Tampa became known as one of the wettest cities in the country. It’s claimed that more than 130 retailers were selling booze illegally during this time. Its infamy was partly due to the ease of obtaining alcohol from Cuba, just a boat ride away.

José Martí Park in Tampa is actually owned by Cuba

Ybor City is the only neighborhood along Florida’s West Coast to be appointed a National Historic Landmark District. One place that adds to its historical significance is José Martí Park, dedicated to the poet and journalist who led the Cuban revolution against Spanish rule in the 1880s and 1890s. The park has been owned by Cuba since 1956 and represents a little piece of the country – it contains soil from each Cuban province.

José Martí Park in Ybor City is dedicated to the memory of Cuban poet and journalist José Martí

Learn more about Tampa Bay and start planning your own trip at visittampabay.com

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